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A Brief Summary: The History of the American Education System

By Edited Jun 26, 2015 0 0

Despite all that is wrong with the American education system today- standardized tests, no child left behind, conformity, bad teachers, too much homework, etc.- there is one main thing that is  at the root of it all-the school system itself. But where did it come from? How did it get here? And why was it implemented? In this article, I will give you a brief summary of how the modern school system arrived in America and why it came here. (If you want an in-depth summary, check out the Underground History of American Education by Jonathan Taylor Gatto, which you can read online for free).

The modern school system was first implemented in Prussia in the 18th century. After soldiers fled during a war, the Prussians decided they needed to come up with a way in which the citizens would become docile and obedient and not flee from anymore wars. So, what they figured was  that with a school system designed to teach children to follow orders and not have any thoughts for themselves, they would be able to effectively train their citizens for war. (By the way, Prussia later become Nazi Germany).

The idea for the school system first came to America by the way of Horace Mann. (He is quickly becoming one of my least favorite people in history). Horace Mann migrated to Prussia and studied there for a while, and decided it would be a good idea to take the Prussian Education system to the US. 

A couple of decades later, and a new group of people decided they knew what was best for everybody and decided how to shape the school system. People such as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller assumed that the industrial age would last forever and figured out a way how they could get more productive workers into the factories.  The goals of these industrialists was to get the citizens to be docile and be able to perform repetitive, mindless tasks so that they could be productive factory workers. To effectively achieve this social management, they helped fund the current modern school system, were children go not to learn how to think, but to learn how to be obedient!

Here is a quote from letter number 1 of John D. Rockefeller’s General Education Board:

"In our dreams, people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present education conventions of intellectual and character education fade from their minds and unhampered by tradition we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into men of learning or philosophers, or men of science. We have not to raise up from them authors, educators, poets or men of letters, great artists, painters, musicians, nor lawyers, doctors, (he's really covering the whole gamut of employment isn't he?) statesmen, politicians, creatures of whom we have ample supply (whoever the pronoun we is meant to stand for there). The task is simple. We will organize children and teach them in an perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way".¹

And millions of children attend these schools.

1. Source: Gatto, John Taylor. http://4brevard.com/choice/Public_Education.htm. "John Taylor GattoSpeech to TheVermont Homeschooling Conference."Shocking Origins of Public Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Dec. 2012.



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